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Volume XIV - The Smiling Forehead

Part I - The Smiling Forehead

Chapter XIX
The Awakening of the Soul


THERE IS an awakening from childhood to youth and from youth to mature age and during this development one's point of view, one's outlook in life changes. Also sometimes in one's life, when one has gone through an illness or a great suffering, at the end of it the whole outlook on life has changed. One also sees that a person who has taken a long journey after having come back has quite changed. Also after a friendship, after a pupilship, after a marriage a sudden change comes in the outlook of a person, and we find that there are some cases where the change is so great that we may say that he is an entirely new person. Seeing this we can divide such changes which may be called developments into three classes.

One class pertains to the physical development, another is connected with the development of the mind and the third class with the development of the soul. There are instances in the lives of many – who rarely will say or admit it – that they can recollect experiences in their childhood when in one moment's time their whole outlook on life changed. As ripening is a desired result, it is the result of every object in life to ripen and to develop. Therefore the fulfillment of life's purpose is to be expected in the awakening of the soul.

One may ask what are the signs of the soul's awakening. The first sign of this awakening is just like the birth of an infant. From the time of its birth the infant is interested in hearing something, any sound that comes, and in seeing something, a color or light, whatever it be attracted to. And thus a person whose soul has awakened becomes awake to everything he sees and hears. Compared to that person everyone else seems to be with open eyes and yet not to see, to be with open ears and yet not to hear. There are many with open ears, but there is rarely one who hears, and there are many with open eyes, but there is hardly one who sees. It is therefore that the natural seeing of the awakened soul is called clairvoyance and his natural hearing clairaudience. In English there is the simple word 'seer' which explains that this person not only has eyes, but together with eyes he has sight.

The moment the soul has awakened music makes an appeal to it, poetry touches it, words move it, art has an influence upon it. It no longer is a sleeping soul, it is awake and it begins to enjoy life to a fuller extent. It is this awakening of the soul which is mentioned in the Bible, 'Unless the soul is born again it will not enter the kingdom of heaven'. Being born again means that the soul is awakened after having come on earth, and entering the kingdom of heaven means that this world, the same kingdom in which we are standing just now, turns into heaven as soon as the point of view has changed. Is it not interesting and most wonderful to think that the same earth we walk on is earth to one person and heaven to another? And it is still more interesting to notice that it is we who change it; we change it from earth into heaven, or we change it otherwise.

This change comes not by study, nor by anything else, but only by the changing of our point of view. I have seen people seek after truth, study in books about it, write many books on theology, and in the end they were in the same place where they were standing before. This shows that all outer efforts are excuses. There is only one thing that brings us before reality and that is the awakening of the soul.

All tragedy of life, all misery and inharmony are caused by one thing and that is lack of understanding. Lack of understanding comes from lack of penetration. The one who does not see from the point of view from which he ought to see becomes disappointed because he cannot understand. It is not for the outer world to help us to understand life better; it is we ourselves who should help ourselves to understand it better.

Then there is a further awakening which is a continuation of what I have called the awakening of the soul. The sign of it is that the awakened person throws a light, the light of his soul, upon every person and every object and sees that object, that condition in this light. It is his own soul which becomes a torch in his hand, it is his own light that illuminates his path. It is just like throwing a searchlight upon dark corners which one did not see before, and the corners become clear and illuminated again. It is like throwing light upon problems that one did not understand at first; it is like seeing with x-rays persons who were a riddle before.

Since life becomes clear to the awakened soul it shows another manifestation: every aspect of life becomes communicative with him. The idea is that life is communicating, the soul is communicating, but they do not communicate until a person is awakened. Once a soul is awakened it becomes communicative with life.

As a young man I had a great desire to visit the shrines of sages, of great teachers. With every desire of hearing something of them or of asking them something I always held my tongue back. I sat quiet in their presence and had a great satisfaction and felt a greater blessing by sitting quiet there than if I had discussed and argued and talked with them; for in the end I felt that there was a communication which was much more satisfactory than these outer discussions and arguments of people who know not what they discuss. It was enlightening, it was refreshing and it gave that power and inspiration with which one can see life in a better light. Those who are awakened become lights, not only lights for themselves but also lights for others. These may not know it but their light, their presence itself helps to make the most difficult problems easy. This brings us to realize the fact that man is light, as the Scriptures have said, a light whose origin, whose source is divine. And when this light is raised then life becomes quite different.

When the soul is awakened furthermore its condition is then as that of a person sitting in the midst of the night among hundreds and thousands of people who are fast asleep. The picture is that he is sitting among them, standing among them, he is looking at them, hearing of their sorrows, miseries and conditions – hundreds of them moving about in their sleep, in their own dreams, not awake to the condition of the other one who is next to them. They may be friends or relations or acquaintances or enemies; whatever be their relationship, little they know about one another, each one absorbed in his own troubles. This awakened soul standing among them all will listen to everyone, will see everyone, will recognize and realize all they think and feel, but his language no one understands; his thoughts he cannot explain to anyone; his feelings he cannot expect anyone to feel. He feels lonely and nothing else can be felt. No doubt in that loneliness there is a sense of perfection, because perfection is loneliness.

When it was said that the apostles knew all languages at the descent of the Holy Spirit, it did not mean knowing the languages of all countries. They knew the language of the soul; for there are several languages which are spoken in different lands, but numberless languages are spoken, as each individual has his particular language. That brings us to realize another idea of very great importance: the outer language can convey only outward things and feelings to one another, but there is an inner language, a language which can be understood by souls who are awakened. It is a universal language, a language of vibrations, a language of feeling, a language which touches the innermost sense. Heat and cold for instance are different feelings which are called by different names in different countries, but inwardly they are the same feelings. So there is love and hate and kindness, harmony and inharmony which are all called by different names in different countries, but their feeling is the same experience for all men.

When in order to know the thought of another we depend upon his outer word then no doubt we fail to understand, for perhaps we do not know that person's language. But if we can communicate with him soul to soul we can certainly understand what he means, for before he says a word he has said it within himself, and that word reaches us before it is expressed outwardly. Before the word is spoken the expression says it; before the thought has formed, the feeling speaks of it. And this shows that it is a feeling which forms a thought, a thought which comes as speech. Even before this a feeling existed, and even there it can be caught when one is able to communicate with the soul. This is what may be called communication: to communicate with the innermost being of a person. But who can communicate? The one who knows how to communicate with himself, the one who in other words is awakened.

The personality of an awakened soul becomes different from every other personality. It becomes more magnetic, because it is a living person who has magnetism; the dead corpse has no magnetism. It is the living person who brings joy, and therefore it is the awakened soul who is joyous. Never for one moment imagine, as many do, that a spiritual person means a most sorrowful, dried-up, long-faced person. Spirit is joy, spirit is life, and when this spirit has awakened all the joy and pleasure that exist are there. As the sun takes away all darkness, so spiritual light takes away all worries and anxieties, sufferings and doubts. If spiritual awakening were not so precious what would be the use of seeking it in life? It is a treasure which nobody can take away from you, a light that will always keep and will never be extinguished. That is called spiritual awakening which is the fulfillment of life's purpose.

Certainly, the things a person once valued and considered important become less important. They lose their value, and things which are beautiful lose their color. It is just like seeing the stage in the light of the sun; all the big palaces and decorations on the stage mean nothing. No doubt this takes away the slavery to which everyone is put by the things of this world; the awakened person becomes a master, and at the same time he need not give those things up. Optimism develops naturally, but an optimism with open eyes. Power increases, the power of accomplishing things. Then as long as a person has not accomplished something he will go after it however small it is.

It is very difficult to judge an awakened soul, as they say in the East, for there is nothing outwardly to prove to you, 'this person is an awakened soul'. The best way of seeing an awakened soul is to waken oneself. No one in the world can pretend to be awake when he is still asleep, as a little child by putting moustaches on his face will not prove himself to be a grown-up man. All other pretenses may be accepted but not the one of being an awakened soul, for it is a living light which no one can pretend to be. If there is any truth it is in the awakening of the soul, for truth is born in this awakening. Truth is not taught, truth is discovered.

Very often people make an effort – but in vain – to awaken a friend or a near relation whom they love. But in the first place we do not know if that person is not more awakened than we ourselves, and we may be trying in vain. And the other point is that a person may be asleep and needs that sleep. Waking him would be a sin instead of a virtue. We are only allowed to give our hand to the one who is turning over in his sleep, who desires to awake. Only then a hand is given.

This giving of the hand in esoteric terms is called initiation. No doubt outwardly a teacher who is acquainted with this path may give a hand to the one who wishes to journey, but inwardly there is the Teacher who gives a hand who has always given and always gives a hand to awakening souls, the same hand which has received the sages and masters of all times in a higher initiation.

Verily, the seeker will find sooner or later, if only he keeps steady on the path till he arrives at his destination.


The words waking and sleeping are familiar to us as we use them in expressing different conditions of life. Really speaking, when we look at it from the point of view of the soul, we sleep and are awake at the same time. For instance when we are looking at a certain thing and our mind is fully absorbed in looking at it, we do not hear things at the same time. And if we are hearing something, absorbed in what we are hearing, when our sense of hearing is focused, our eyes may be open and yet we are not seeing. If that is true it explains to us that when one sense is fully awakened the other senses are asleep. In the same way, when we experience a sensation through the mind the body is absent.

The more we look at sleeping and waking from a psychological point of view, the more we shall come to the conclusion that they are not as we understand them, but that every moment of the day and the night we are awake and asleep at the same time. To give another instance: when a person is asleep and experiencing a dream, he is awake to something and yet asleep to the outer things. To one world he is asleep, to the other awake. So one is always asleep and always awake.

According to the ideas of the mystics there are five stages of consciousness which make one asleep to one stage and awake to another. One state of consciousness is our experience through the senses. In this condition – as we are just now, our eyes ready to see, our ears hearing – we are wakeful to the outside world. This is one aspect of wakefulness. Apart from this aspect which we alone recognize as wakefulness there are four other aspects.

The second aspect of wakefulness is when a person is asleep and yet is experiencing life exactly as he does on this plane of the physical world. This is the dream state. We call it dream when we are awake, when we have passed that dream state. At the time of dreaming that state is as real as this state in the physical world; we do not think it is a dream. Nothing that we can find here is lacking in the dream, and even things we cannot find here on the physical plane we can find in the dream state. All the limitation, all we find lacking in this life is provided for in the dream state. All that we are fond of, all that we would like to be, all we need in our life is easier to find in the dream than in the wakeful state.

If we say that after waking up we find the real life and call the other state a dream, and say therefore that it was an imagination without reality, we think that on this physical plane we are awake, that it is real. But is yesterday as real as today? When we look back upon our childhood, from the moment we came on earth all is yesterday; only just now is today. All that is past is yesterday and if it is not a dream, what is it? We need not only recognize what we see in the dream as a dream; all that is past is nothing but a dream as well. It is the 'just now' which gives us the feeling of reality. What we are experiencing – that becomes real to us; what we are not experiencing, what we are not conscious of even at this moment does not exist for us. Only what our senses are conscious of is all the world, is life to us, and all we are unaware of means nothing, does not exist for us.

In this way each person has his own life and his own world; we all live in the same world, and each has his own world. Man's world is that of which he is conscious and in this way every person has his heaven and his hell made by himself. He need not wait for heaven and hell afterwards, he has already there what he has made for himself, what he is conscious of. If he is conscious of sorrow and depression, tortures and sufferings, pains and agitations, he lives in all that. He has made a fire for himself and is standing in it; he need not wait till death comes, he is already there. The one who lives in beauty, compassion, affection, forgiveness, appreciation for all that is good and beautiful, has heaven here; he need not wait for afterwards. This again shows that we are in the world to which we are awake, and to the world to which we are not awake we are asleep. We are asleep to that part of life which we do not know.

Another experience is that of a man who lives in music, whose thoughts are music, whose imaginations compose music, who enjoys it, to whom music is a language: he lives in the world of music. He lives under the same sun as everybody else, and yet his world is different. It is said that Beethoven who could no more hear with his ears, very much enjoyed the music he read and played, while perhaps another man with good hearing did not hear it. The soul of Beethoven was in music; the music he was playing was in himself, he lived in music and enjoyed it.

There is one experience which we make through our five senses, and that is one world, one plane of existence. Then there is another existence which we experience in the dream, and that is a world too. It is a separate world, its law is separate. Those who consider a dream only as a dream do not know the importance, the greatness, the wonders of it. The dream plane is more wonderful than the physical plane, because the physical plane is crude, limited and poor, subject to death and disease. The other plane which one experiences in the dream is better, purer, one has a greater freedom there.

Dreams can be divided into four different classes. One dream is a confused repetition of the same experience which we had during the day in wakefulness. However confused the dream may be, whether it be a repetition of all we have done or said in our daytime life, yet this repetition has a meaning, a great meaning. It has an influence in life, it has an effect, as every thought and imagination has an effect. We must not believe that what once we think or imagine is lost. Every thought ever born lives without our knowing, whether good or bad, harmonious or inharmonious. Once it is born it is created and left in the world of thought to live and to have its effect. A dream also is a thought and is as living, or even more so, as is thought in the wakeful state. Therefore every dream, however confused it may seem, once it has appeared before us has a meaning and a certain effect upon our lives. Also the dream in connection with someone else in our lives in one way or another has something to do with that person.

There is a second aspect of the dream and that is the contrary dream. It is just like the mirror in which you look short when you are tall, and tall when you are short: just the contrary of what you are. In the same way, if there is unhappiness, weakness waiting for you, you will see yourself in that dream in great glory, and when happiness is awaiting you, you will see yourself in misery. It is a kind of upset condition of the mind that produces quite the opposite to what is going to happen.

The third kind of dream is symbolical and it is most interesting to study this aspect of the dream. If a poet has a symbolical dream it is in the poetical realm. If a fine person has a symbolical dream it has fine symbols, for a rigid person it has crude symbols; it is all according to a man's stage of evolution. The more one studies this aspect of the dream the more one marvels at the phenomena of dream-land.

The fourth kind of dream manifests from the spirit and is exactly the picture of the future. It may be a picture of something going to happen the next day, next month, next year, or perhaps ten years later. The law of these dreams is that first a person sees a picture of what is going to happen after twenty years. When he advances this comes closer and closer: something going to happen after five years, after one year, after six months, and so on. And then he sees tonight what is going to be tomorrow. That is the realistic dream.

The first kind of dream explains the condition of everyday life. That dream comes to a person who is engrossed in his work and has no concentration of mind. He is just like a machine working all day long, and at night he sees his work reproduced before him. The second kind of dream, showing the opposite of what one is, comes to the person whose mind is upset, confused, troubled and puzzled. The third kind of dream, the symbolical dream, comes to a person who is intelligent, intellectual, ethereally evolved. The fourth kind of dream comes to someone who is already evolved, spiritual, devotional, loving, kind, forgiving by nature, tenderhearted, of gentle nature. This again tells us that man's reward and punishment is not to be anticipated after death, but given to him every day, every hour of life.

Now coming to the third stage of consciousness – this stage lies between spirit and matter. It is this state of consciousness which we experience as the condition of sleep which we call fast sleep, deep sleep, when we do not even dream. There is so little said about it and very few think about it. Once a person studies this question of sleep he will find that it is the greatest marvel in the world. It is a living phenomenon. The rest and peace, vitality and vigor, intelligence and life that come to a man during that time of sleep is beyond explanation. Yet man is so ungrateful, he is never thankful for this experience given to him every day. He is only unhappy when he has lost it; then nothing in the world can satisfy him. No wealth, no comfort, no home, no position, nothing in the world can replace that experience which is as simple as sleeping, which means nothing and yet is everything.

The further we study the phenomenon of deep sleep the more we shall come to understand the mystery of life. It gives a key to the mystery of life, because it is an experience of consciousness which divides our spiritual consciousness between the physical and the spiritual world. It stands as a barrier between two experiences: one in this world and one which is reached by spiritual attainment. Our great poet of Persia, Rumi, who has inspired millions of people and whose works are considered in the East as the foundation of higher knowledge, has written about sleep, 'O sleep, it is thou who makest the king unaware of his kingdom; the suffering patient forgets his illness, and prisoners are free when they are asleep'. Imagine how all pains and sorrows and limitations of life, all the tragedy of life, all sufferings and agitations are washed away when one experiences that deep sleep.

It is a great pity that the mechanical and artificial life we live today in this world is depriving us of that natural experience of deep sleep. Our first fault is our gathering and living in one city, all crowded together. Then there are motorcars, there are houses of twenty stories shaking every moment of the day and night, every vehicle shaking it. We are a race at the present time which is unaware of the comfort and bliss of the life known to the ancient people who lived simply, who lived with nature, far removed from this mechanical and artificial life. We are so far away from natural life that it has become our habit; we do not know any other comfort except the comfort we can experience in this kind of life we live. At the same time it shows that the soul is capable of attaining to greater comfort, pleasure and joy, to greater peace, rest and bliss only by living naturally.

These three stages of consciousness, physical, dream and deep sleep, are each nothing but an experience of the soul in an awakened state. For instance, when a person is awake outwardly he is conscious of the outer world; when he is fast asleep he is awakened to that particular plane while asleep to both dream-land and the physical state.

Now you may ask, 'If a person who sleeps deeply is awakened to a certain consciousness, why does he not remember it? We think that he is asleep, for if he was awake he should know something about it; if he remembers nothing it means that he was asleep and certainly not awake. To be awake means experiencing something; during deep sleep one does not experience'.

When we are looking at a bright light and that bright light is shut off then we see darkness. In reality there is no darkness. If there had not been bright light first there would not be darkness but light; it is the comparison that makes it darkness. Therefore the experience we have in our deep sleep is an experience of a higher and greater nature. It is so fine, so subtle and unusual – our consciousness being accustomed to the rigid experiences of the physical world that the experience we have in that state is too fine to be perceived, too fine to be brought back to the physical world.

Every experience can be made intelligible by contrast. If there were no straight line, we could not say high and low, right and left; it is the straight line which makes us recognize them as such. If there were no sun we would not be able to say south, north, east and west. Therefore with every conception there must be some object to focus upon which helps to form our conception. In order to understand deep sleep we have nothing in the physical existence to compare it with and therefore that experience of deep sleep remains only as a great satisfaction, joy and upliftment, as something that has vitalized us and has created energy and enthusiasm in life. This shows that there is something we receive; we do not come empty-handed from there, we have attained something we cannot get here from the physical plane. From there we receive something that we cannot interpret in everyday language – more precious, more valuable and vital than anything from the physical and mental planes.

There is a still higher plane or experience of consciousness, different from these three experiences which everybody knows more or less, and this fourth experience is that of the mystic. It is an experience of seeing without the help of the eyes, of hearing without the help of the ears, and experiencing a plane without the help of the physical body – an experience similar to that of the physical body and at the same time independent of it. As soon as one arrives at this experience one begins to believe in the hereafter, for it gives one the conviction that, when the physical body is thrown off, the soul still remains – independent of the physical body and capable of seeing, living and experiencing even more freely and fully. Therefore this stage of experience is called the consciousness of the mystic.

Perhaps you have read in books of Eastern philosophy the words nirvana and mukti, and you have become frightened! Nirvana means to become nothing. You may say, 'I do not want to become nothing'. Everyone wants to become something, no one wants to become nothing. Those who want to be something – although that can be taken for nothing! – are so frightened of that idea. I have seen hundreds and thousands who were interested in Eastern philosophy, but when it came to being nothing they found it a difficult idea to grasp and they found it frightening to think, 'One day this 'I' shall be nothing'. But they do not know that it is the solving of this question which allows one to be; for what man identifies himself with is a mortal thing that will one day expire, and he will no more find himself to be as he had thought himself to be.

Nirvana therefore is the fifth and highest consciousness which I am explaining now. The experience of this consciousness is of a similar kind to that of a person in deep sleep. But in the deep sleep one is asleep outwardly, which means in the physical and in the mental body, while in the condition of nirvana, or highest consciousness, a person is conscious all through: he is conscious of the body as much as of the soul. Then the consciousness is so evenly divided while yet he keeps to the highest stage – that at that time the person lives fully.

To conclude: what does the soul's awakening mean? The body's awakening means to feel sensation. The mind's awakening means to think and to feel. The soul's awakening means for the soul to become conscious of itself. Everyone is conscious of his affairs, of his conditions of life, of his body, of his mind, but not of his soul. In order to become conscious of the soul one has to work in a certain way, because the soul has become unconscious of itself; by working through its vehicles – body and mind – it has become unaware of its own freedom, of its own beauty.

In the East there is a custom and a belief that the one who sleeps must not be awakened. This is symbolical. Those whose soul is asleep may just as well sleep. If one awakens them they will be sick. It is not their time to awake. If they awake too soon they will be confused, they will act wrongly, speak wrongly. It is therefore that an untimely education of the philosophy of truth always proves to be undesirable.

The other day in London a friend of mine came from Ireland. I told this person to stay in a pension near my place which was a pension of the Theosophical Society. My friend came next day to me very surprised and troubled. She said, 'I am quite confused. In that pension someone came to me and said, 'In my last incarnation you were my aunt'. Then someone else came and said, 'You were my sister'. Everyone there was my aunt, or friend, or somebody in a past incarnation, and everyone is claiming to have been a king. No one wishes to have been a poor man'. I said – you know that Indians like humor – 'They must have committed a great sin to have come this time as simple people'.

That shows how, when we give untimely philosophical education, everything of subtle nature is made simple and is spoiled. Do you think that they speak very much in the East? They have respect, they do not talk, do not argue. All that is of a sacred nature, aspirations that belong to a higher world, they keep among some few who understand them and do not speak about these things. Therefore there is that custom never to awaken those who are asleep. When their time comes then you can give them a hand and they will awake.

The first stage in the awakening of the soul is a feeling, 'is there not something else that I could know'. He feels dissatisfied with all he knows, with all the knowledge he may have, science, art, philosophy, or literature. He comes to a stage where he feels, 'There is something else I must know that books, dogmas and beliefs cannot teach, something higher and greater that words cannot explain. That is what I want to know'. It does not depend upon the age of the person. It may be a child who has that inclination or one who has reached age – and yet does not feel like it. It depends upon the soul. Therefore in the East they call a child an old soul when it begins to show that inclination, when it is not satisfied with the knowledge of names and forms and wants to know something else, although it may not know what it is.

Then there comes a second stage, and that stage is bewilderment. Imagine, an evolved person being more bewildered than an unevolved one! And yet it is so, for he begins to see that things are not as they seem to be but as they are. So there comes a kind of conflict: 'What shall I call it: this or that, good or bad, love or hate?'. There comes a time when all that was accepted in his mind, all that he believed to be so, appears to be quite the contrary to what it seems to be.

His friends, his relations, those whom beloved, wealth, position, all things he had followed, change their appearance and sometimes become quite the contrary to what he had thought.

I will give you a little example of this bewilderment. The other day in Chicago a lady came to see me, trembling, in a very sorrowful state of mind. I asked her what was the matter and she said she had had an accident. The house in which she lived had been burnt, she had had to break a window in order to get out, she had hurt her hand, and it had all made a great upset in her life. But then she said, 'It is not all that which makes me so upset'. I asked, 'What else?'. She said, 'The way how all my friends and neighbors whom I loved and liked acted at the time when the fire was on, has impressed me so that the whole world is quite different now'. What does this mean? That friendship, relationship, love, devotion may not be the same as they appear when it comes to the time of test. Then there comes a time when a person begins to look at things differently.

This reminds me of a word from the Prophet Muhammad, who says in a kind of poetic form, 'A witch followed me in the hereafter and I was frightened. I asked, What is this, Lord, that is frightening me? And the answer came, It is the same world that once you adored and worshipped and pursued and thought so much of'. That shows that our consciousness changes our outlook in life; it changes as soon as our soul has opened its eyes. Our whole life changes. We live in the same world, and yet we do not; it is quite a different world then.

The next stage after this bewilderment is the stage of sympathy. We begin to appreciate things more and sympathize more, for so far we had walked on thorns and did not feel them, but in this stage we begin to feel them. We see that others are walking on the same thorns, so we forget our pain and begin to sympathize with them. The evolved ones therefore develop sympathy, a natural outgoing tendency. Troubles, sufferings, limitations everyone has to go through, everyone has to face the same difficulties. Not only the good ones, the wicked one has a still greater difficulty: he lives in the same world with his wickedness, he has a great load to carry. So naturally the evolved one becomes forgiving and sympathetic towards him.

As one goes further in the soul's unfoldment one finally arrives at the stage of revelation. Life begins to reveal itself, the whole of life, each soul becomes communicative – not only living beings but each thing. They say that the twelve apostles knew all languages. It does not mean that they knew English, French and Italian, but that they knew every soul's language, as every soul has its own separate language. They began to perceive vibrations and so every evolved soul will feel the vibrations of every other soul, and every condition, every soul, every object in the world will reveal its nature and character to him. Sadi, the Persian poet, has said, 'Once a soul has begun to read, every leaf of the tree becomes as a page of the sacred book of life'.


The word awakening is merely used for convenience, to make you see it more clearly. In reality the soul is always awake, the soul is never asleep. Day and night are two diverse conditions, they are not conditions of the sun. The sun neither rises nor sets. It is our conception; it is more convenient to speak of the rising and setting of the sun, but if anything rises and sets it is the world, not the sun. So day and night are not conditions of the sun, they are conditions themselves. When the world turns its back to the sun it is night, and when the world turns its face to the sun it is day. It is the same with the soul's awakening. The soul is always awake, but what is it awake to? Someone may be looking with open eyes, but what is he looking at? Upwards or downwards or sideways? He is looking in a certain direction and is conscious of that direction. To speak of the soul's awakening therefore is for the sake of convenience.

What part in us is it that may be called soul? Is it our body with its flesh and bones and veins and blood? Is it our mind with its thoughts, imaginations, feelings and emotions? Neither of these. Then what is it? It is something which is beyond the body and beyond the mind. When one asks, 'Is it conscious', the answer is that it is, but its consciousness is not as we understand it, for we know it as intelligence, as being conscious of something. Everyone does not know what consciousness means, but everyone knows what he is conscious of.

For instance, a mirror with a reflection in it is not only a mirror, but it is a mirror in which something is reflected. This means that it is occupied, it is not empty. When a person says 'consciousness ', he does not think of the original condition of it; he thinks only of the consciousness which is conscious of something. As soon as we distinguish between consciousness and that which it is conscious of we separate them, we see them as two things, just as we can separate the mirror from what is reflected in it.

As soon as we realize this we will come to the conclusion that the soul of the wise and the foolish, of the sinner and the virtuous, is one and the same. The wickedness of the wicked and the goodness of the good, the ignorance of the foolish and the wisdom of the wise are apart from the soul; the soul is only conscious of it. At the time when the soul is conscious of it one says, 'Here is an ignorant soul', but the soul is the same. It is not the soul which is ignorant or wise; what is reflected in it is ignorant or wise, wicked or virtuous. At the same time we should know that if an elephant looks into a mirror, the mirror is not the elephant, but one can see an elephant in the mirror. If a man does not know what a mirror is he can say, 'Here is an elephant', but it is only its reflection; free from this reflection it is only a mirror. The moment the reflection is removed, the mirror will be a mirror as it always has been.

So it is with the soul. Man makes it miserable, wicked, ignorant, wise or illuminated by being conscious of these things. The soul is neither the one nor the other. The soul is only soul. However there is the difficulty that very often people, having a certain conception of the soul, do not see the idea of the mystic and say, 'a wicked soul, a bad soul, a foolish soul'. But the soul cannot be that, the soul is the soul, it is beyond any attributes.

Now one will ask, 'Where does the soul come from? If it is conscious what is it then?' And the best explanation that can be given is: the soul is the essence of all things, it is life – but not life in the sense we understand it. What we call life is a suggestion of life. The soul is the real life. The reflection, which is only a suggestion of the soul, we call life and one who moves and sees and hears and acts we call a living being, but what is living in him is the soul. The soul is not seen, therefore life is not seen. Life has touched the person; so one sees the effect of that touch in the person and one says, 'He is living, it is life'. But what we see is a suggestion of life which appears and disappears. Life is life, it never dies.

When one asks, 'What is intelligence?', we have the same problem as with consciousness. One knows intelligence as something which is intelligent, but there is a difference between intelligence and intelligent. The intelligence which has the reflection of a certain knowledge becomes intelligent. But intelligence need not know: it is the knowing faculty; just as consciousness need not be conscious of anything: it is consciousness itself, it cannot witness it.

For instance, if one keeps a person in a dark room with beautiful colors and pictures he cannot see them. His eyes are open, his sight is open, but what is before him is not reflected in his sight. What is there is sight, nothing reflected in it. So it is with consciousness, and it is the same with intelligence: intelligence which is consciousness, and consciousness which is the soul. Why do the materialistic and spiritualistic view differ? A materialist today says that even biology shows how man comes from the animal kingdom. There is a gradual awakening of matter to become conscious and through the awakening to consciousness matter becomes fully intelligent in man. So far science goes.

A mystic does not deny this. He says, 'It is quite true, but where does matter come from, and what is matter?' Matter is intelligence just the same, there is only a process. Just like the seed – which is the root – manifests within the heart of the flower, so in man intelligence manifests through the development of matter. But intelligence which is intelligent begins with intelligence and finishes in intelligence.1 Spirit is the source and goal of all things; if matter did not have spirit in it, it would not awaken, it would not develop. Matter shows that life unfolds it, that life discovers it, that life realizes it: that consciousness which was so to speak buried in matter for thousands of years. By a gradual process it is realized through the vegetable and animal kingdoms, and in man it unfolds itself and takes its original condition. The only difference is that in this finishing of the spirit, this fulfillment of the spirit which manifests in man, there is variety: such a large number of human beings, millions and billions – and in their origin is one being. Spirit is one when unmanifested, and many in the realm of manifestation. Therefore the appearance of this world of variety gives man first the impression of many lives – which produces what we call illusion and keeps man ignorant of the human being. The root from where he comes, the original state of his being, man does not know. He is all the time under the illusion of the world of variety which keeps him absorbed, interested and busy, and at the same time ignorant of his real condition as long as he is asleep to one side of life and awakened to the other, asleep to the inner and awakened to the outer side of life. Awakening of the soul is what the mystic calls awakening to the source; it is the condition to awaken to the reality of life.

You may ask how one awakens to this reality, what makes one awaken, and whether it is necessary for one to be awakened. The answer is that the whole of creation was made in order to awaken. This awakening is chiefly of two kinds: one kind is called birth, the birth of the body, when a soul awakens in a condition where it is limited in the physical body. This is one awakening and by this man becomes captive. There is another awakening, which is to awaken to reality, and that is called the birth of the soul. First is the birth of the body, next the birth of the soul, as it is said in the Bible. One awakening is to the world of illusion, the other to the world of reality.

One must know that for everything there is a time, and when this is not considered one makes a mistake. When one wakens a person at two o'clock at night his sleep is broken; he ought to sleep all night, it was necessary for him. Not knowing this, people very often try to wake a person up, their wife, husband, friend or relation, their child or father. They are very anxious to awaken the other; often they feel too lonely and think, 'This person is close to me, he should be awakened too'. It is the same with the one who smokes or drinks: he likes others to have the same experience, just as it is too dull for a person in a cheerful mood if the other one is so dull that he cannot laugh and see the joke. Naturally therefore the desire, the tendency of those who awaken to the higher life is to awaken others. They cannot help it, it is natural.3 But very often one is too impatient with people and unreasonable. Very often we make great mistakes wanting to awake a person before it is time – when he ought to have a sleep. Also we sometimes presume to be more awake than another, while in reality the other may be more awakened.

There is a story of a wife who was religious and devotional. One day she arranged a feast and her husband asked, 'What is it for? Is it a religious day?'. 'It is more than a religious day', she said, 'It is the greatest day in my life. There was something which always kept me anxious and it has left me now'. The husband asked what that was, and she said, 'Since I married you I thought that you had no inclination to anything spiritual or religious'. 'Then what makes you think otherwise?', asked the husband. She said, 'Today I have realized, now I understand, that you are spiritual'. 'Do you? How do you know?' 'Well', she said, 'do not ask me'. 'No, tell it to me'. She then told him, 'I heard you say the name of God while turning over in your sleep'. 'Did I', said he, 'Alas'. He fell down and died instantly. The mystery was too sacred to him, something he could never say in words. His feeling of devotion and worship was so great that no church could contain it, it was vaster than any church, greater than the universe. When that mystery was broken it was as if a sacred seal was broken. He could not stand it and died.

The other day I was touched to see a play in which a student of the light of the higher ideals says the Word, the sacred Word, and dies. The beautiful part was that there was a prophet in the play who saw it and said, 'He saw beyond and died'. 2

What does death mean? Turning. The soul is always awake, so it is always living. What is death? Death is turning: the soul turns from one side to another. If a beautiful voice comes from behind to which it wishes to listen then it turns, it is attracted to another direction. This is called awakening, awakening to a certain sphere to which it was asleep.

It is no use trying to awake everybody; everyone is awakening to something – if not to higher truth, then to lesser. The one who has the privilege of being awake can give a hand to the one who is trying to awake – to whatever plane it may be. In the language of the mystic giving a hand is called initiation.

In order to get a clear idea of awakening I should like to bring to your thought the condition which we call a dream. Many give little importance to it. When one says, 'This person is dreamy', it means that he is conscious of something which is nothing. But is there really anything which we can call a dream? The real meaning of dream is that which is past. Yesterday is as much a dream as the experience of the night: it is past. When a person is dreaming, does he think that he is in a dream? Does he think that it is unimportant? At that moment does he give it less importance than his everyday life? He looks at it as a dream when he is awakened to the other sphere, but while in the dream sphere he will not call it a dream. When a person is asked, 'What about the experience of yesterday?', he will say, 'It was a dream, everyday life was a dream'.

The more one thinks of it, the more one glances into the hereafter, and the more one will realize that what is behind the veil of death, is awakening to another sphere as real as this, even more real than this. What is real? Real is the soul, the consciousness itself. What is past is a dream, what will come is hope. What one experiences seems real, but it is only a suggestion. The soul is real, its aim is to realize itself. Its liberation, its freedom, harmony and peace, all depend upon its own unfoldment. No outside experience can make the soul realize the real.

Why cannot we see the soul? We can see the body and from our thoughts we can think that we have a mind, because thought manifests to us in the form of a mental picture. Why do we not see the soul? The answer is that as the eyes can see all things but themselves so it is with the soul. The soul is sight itself, it sees all, but the moment it closes its eyes to all it sees then its own light makes it manifest to its own view. It is therefore that people take the path of meditation, the path by which they get in touch with themselves, with their soul. They realize the continuity of life which is immortal life, they realize the independence of life by getting in touch with their soul.

Now one may ask, 'What about those who come in this world in a miserable condition, while others come in good conditions? Is it not something innate in the soul?' No, it is something that the soul has carried along with it like the load on a camel: it is on its back, not within it. So it is with the load of the soul.

Another question is, 'If the soul is awakened, how does it awake, and who awakens it?' We see that the time for nature to awake is the spring. It is asleep all winter and it awakes in the spring. There is a time for the sea, when the wind blows and brings good tidings, as if it awakes from sleep; then the waves rise. All this shows struggle, it shows that something has touched it and makes it uneasy, restless; it makes it want liberation, release. Every atom, every object, every condition and every living being has a time of awakening.

Sometimes there is a gradual awakening, and sometimes there is a sudden awakening. To some persons it comes in a moment's time – by a blow, by a disappointment, or because their heart has broken through something that happened suddenly. It seemed cruel, but at the same time the result was a sudden awakening and this awakening brought a blessing beyond praise. The outlook changed, the insight deepened; joy, quiet, independence and freedom were felt, and compassion showed in the attitude. A person who would never forgive, who liked to take revenge, who was easily displeased and cross, a person who would measure and weigh, when his soul is awakened, becomes in one moment a different person. As the emperor of India Mahmud Ghaznavi has said in a most beautiful line, 'I, the emperor, who have thousands of slaves awaiting my command, the moment love has sprung in my heart consider myself the slave of my servants'. The whole attitude becomes changed. Only, the question is what one awakens to, in which sphere, in what plane, to which reality.

Sometimes after one has made a mistake, by the loss that mistake has caused, the outlook becomes quite different. In business, in one's profession, in worldly life, a certain experience just like a blow has broken something in a person and with that breaking a light has come, a new light. However, one is not always to be awakened by a mistake. No doubt awakening very often comes by a blow, by a great pain, a painful condition, but at the same time it is not necessary to look for a blow. Life has enough blows for us, we need not look for them.

There is a story of a peasant girl who was passing through a farm while going to another village. There was a Muslim offering his prayers on his prayer-rug in the open. The law is that no one should cross the place where anyone is praying. When this girl returned from the village this man was still sitting there. He said, 'O girl, now what terrible sin have you committed!' 'What did I do?' asked she. 'I was offering prayers here, and you passed over this place'. The girl asked, 'What do you mean by offering prayers?' 'Thinking of God', he replied. The girl said, 'Yes? Were you thinking of God? I was thinking of my young man whom I was going to meet, and I did not see you. Then how did you see me while you were thinking of God?' That shows what awakening means, what sleep means. She was asleep to the Muslim and awake to the one she was going to meet. And he was awake to something else than to the object of his prayer. He was asleep to his object and she was awake. One's heart is where one's treasure is. If it values a treasure it is awakened to it. If it is not awakened to a treasure it may be awakened to some misery. If its treasure is on earth the heart is awakened rather to the earth than to something else.

In spiritual awakening the first thing that comes to man is the lifting of a veil and this is the lifting of an apparent condition. Then a person does not see every condition as it appears to be, but sees behind every condition its deeper meaning. Generally man has an opinion about everything that appears before him. He does not wait one moment to look or to have patience, he immediately forms an opinion about every person, about every action he sees; whether wrong or right, he immediately forms an opinion without knowing what is behind it, ready to contempt. It takes a long time for God to weigh and measure; for man it takes no time to judge! But when the veil of immediate reason is lifted, then one reaches the cause, then one is not awakened to the surface but to what is behind the surface. There comes another step in awakening when a man does not even see the cause, but comes to the realization of the adjustment of things: how every activity of life, whether it appears to be wrong or right, adjusts itself. By the time he arrives at this condition he has lost much of his false self. That is what brings him there, for the more one is conscious of the false self, the further one is removed from reality. These two things cannot go together. It is dark or it is light; if it is light there is no darkness. As much as the false conception of self is broken up, so much more light there is. On this path therefore a person sees life more clearly.

Another form of awakening is the awakening of the self; one begins to wonder, 'What does my thought mean, what does my feeling mean, what does wrong and what does right mean? What is it after all?' A man then begins to weigh and measure all that springs within himself. The further he goes the more he sees behind all things, not only living on the surface of life, but attached to all planes of existence. This is a new awakening. Then a person has only to be awakened to the other world; he need not go there. He need not experience what is death, but he can bring about a condition where he rises above life. This brings him to the conclusion that there are many worlds in one world. He closes his eyes to the dimensions of the outer world and finds within his own self: 'You are the center of all worlds'. And the only thing necessary is turning; not awakening, but turning.

Man has become motionless, stagnant by fixing himself to this world in which he is born, in which he has become interested. If he makes his soul more subtle in order to turn away from this world he can experience all that is said of the different worlds, of the different planes of consciousness. He will find the whole mystery within himself only by being able to make his soul so subtle that it can turn and move.

One may ask, 'How can we make the soul subtle?' The character of the soul is like water. By being stagnant it becomes frozen like ice which does not move, and so it is with the soul bound to the world of which it is conscious. It is not unable to move, but that consciousness holds it; it is like captivity. A Sufi poet shows the way out of it when he says, 'You yourself have made your self a captive, and you yourself will try to make your self free'.

1)  Just as the seed begins as seed and finishes in seed. (editor's note).)

2) Hazrat Inayat Khan refers to Ansky's play 'The Dybbuk'.

3) Lacunae in this lecture's shorthand MS have prevented a complete and entirely consistent rendition of the original wording.

For the sake of completeness: the original shorthand – in addition to the advice against subjective enthusiasm for wakening those who are still meant to sleep – contains the following paragraph:

'In this instance he is most busy in this work. If not he would have said, 'Well, I experience it, I enjoy it, is that not enough? Why must I trouble with others who stand before me like stone walls?' Such people have toiled and toiled their whole life and they have been exiled, flayed, martyred and crucified, and when they have awakened to a certain sphere where they enjoy and experience harmony and peace, they wish that others also experience it, may enjoy it in the same way. It is not much different from one who drinks and wants the other to be as happy as he is in drinking. It is exactly the same.'

checked 18-Oct-2005